I believe that the future of TV is online and most probably, on our smartphones.

Much of the content you watch nowadays comes through your phone. Whether it is an episode of your fav series, or a viral video, or new music. With this in mind, a number of subscription services have come up, each one trying to get us to sign up for their video services.

After Netflix became available worldwide, other companies have seemingly taken notice, offering services beyond just cable TV. On-demand content has become quite popular, especially with enticing offers, like a month of free access before the charges kick in.

ShowMax is the latest entrant, focusing more on African countries but using Netflix's model - on demand content.

They launched in Kenya a couple of weeks ago, announcing a collaboration with Safaricom, where you pay for your subscription using M-Pesa. This could be the first instance where Kenyans can pay via mobile money rather than the usual cards and Paypal.

I found it much easier to subscribe to ShowMax than to Netflix because of Lipa Na M-Pesa. And I believe this is something that will make ShowMax have a bigger reach compared to Netflix.

There’s a 7-day free trial. But you get this after payment. Not before. That makes no sense! And only Card and Paypal payments get the free 7 days. MPesa users don’t. What the hell?

There are two bouquets: Ksh. 330 or Ksh. 880 per month. The 330 offers selected content for you while the 880 bouquet offers you the whole ShowMax library. Naturally, I decided to try out the whole library.

At first, I felt disappointed. The worldwide library felt smaller than I expected. Then I realised it is just the design. It doesn’t give you the appeal of something big. I felt like one kind of needs to beforehand, know what they are looking for to actually find it.

Seeing as ShowMax is a big name, I really expected my front page to be beautifully filled with their biggest content. Maybe the way I usually feel when I open up Netflix.

The user interface isn’t complicated. I have discovered they have a lot of movies, documentaries, and endless TV shows. From Suits to the Big Bang Theory and to the delight of some of my friends, Pretty Little Liars. Other big shows I noticed include Silicon Valley, Dexter, The Good Wife, Luther, Downton Abbey, and Switched at Birth.

There’s also Kenyan content including **Gavana, Mweshimiwa, Vitimbi, **and Beba Beba. And if you love Nollywood, you’ll find movies and shows included too.

What however still doesn’t feel right to me is the fact that most of their offerings in terms of TV shows don’t have the latest seasons or episodes. Why?

Here is the good and the bad with ShowMax

The Good:

  • Easy paying subscription through MPesa
  • Android App allows downloads
  • Setting bandwidth allowed so as to cap data used during streaming
  • The show catalog includes Kenyan hit series and comedies
  • Other African movies and series available

The Bad:

  • Trial period isn't properly defined
  • Desktop and Mobile apps need to be better designed
  • The content isn't up-to-date
  • No refunds once paid
  • Signing into the app is a problem

If asked to choose between Netflix and ShowMax, I’d definitely go with Netflix, as their original content – Narcos, House of Cards, Stranger Things, Sense8 and even their latest The Crown – are really good shows.

ShowMax's other differentiator is that it allows you to download episodes to watch later, albeit with some monthly limits. This is major, especially if you don’t have the bundles to stream and can only access high-speed Wi-Fi during certain periods of the day.

One thing is clear, though. The future of video content is in streaming, and it should be interesting to watch how Showmax and other players adapt to take advantage of this trend.

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